Thursday, August 22, 2019

Watch Your Change

I was in Bangkok in June of 2018 (Click here for a link to that post) but this time I decided to stay near Khao San Road.

Khao San has a reputation as the place to be for hippies, backpackers and low budget travelers. That may have been the case 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Now it is a cliché location filled with mid-range accommodation, overpriced food, massage parlors, families and Chinese tourists. The Chinese tourist is everywhere now. There is absolutely nothing Bohemian about the place. I am not saying don't visit, hang out and watch the crowed while sipping an overpriced Chang. Just lower your expectations if you are looking to experience something that no longer exists.

One thing that the local merchants have down to a science is trying to short change you. Counting back your change fast and hoping you just put it in your pocket is one of the most common trick and not giving enough change runs a close second. However, the most effective is giving you a 50 Baht note instead of a 500. They look similar in color, 50 is blue, 500 is light purple and the 500 is a bit larger. However, too much talking and not enough checking means suddenly you find yourself short 450 Baht...about $19.50 Canadian. If you are wondering. A resounding yes, it happened to me.

The famous Khao San Road
A perfect sign for this town
Entrance sign to my hotel
Lamphuhouse. A bit of seclusion in the madness
Street vendors in front of a government building
A bit of greenery around the hotel

I treated myself to a good room at the Lampuhouse Hotel Soi Rambrutri, , just a 5 minute walk away from Khaosan Road. My $30 a night splurge included free daily bottled water, a private bathroom and a balcony. A home run in my world of simplicity! I was within walking distance to temples, interesting streets and general Bangkok life.

I buy very few trinkets and trash when I travel. What I do collect as souvenirs is money. Current currency and when possible older coins and notes from street vendors and markets. I love browsing through bowls of coins looking for hidden gems or something that catches my eye. No, there are no million dollar finds and it’s fun to negotiate with a vendor who excitedly explains how valuable a coin is, even though it's not. Some of my best Mexican memories are with Tom Webster in Tehuacan. There were so many vendors in various markets with impressive looking coins. It became a bi-weekly event to head out to a market and browse for hours.

I came across a vendor in front of the Coin Museum just up the road from Khao San. Her coins were all so overpriced but she refused to budge because they were all “rare and valuable”. In fact, so rare she had about 50 of each. Near the Grand Palace and the Royal Temple of the Emerald Buddha, I came across a woman who had coins spread out on various blankets. I was going to be there a while. She was incredibly friendly and funny. She gave me tea and we sat and talked for about half an hour. I looked at coins and she told me stories about them. True or not, it was fun and entertaining. I ended up buying a couple of coins from the 1980s for about $6. She was overjoyed and gave me a small plastic container of Thai sweets as a gift. I sat and talked with her for a while longer. A nice travel moment.

My favorite coin lady

Sweeeeeet snacks.
Selfies with locals is an Asian Sport
Ministry of something or other..
Private, for your punishment you must sit on a horse and be bothered by tourist for a day

As I was with my "coin lady friend", three young guys stood and watched what we were doing. They were curious and kept looking at me, whispering and nervously smiling. I knew it was going to be "selfie time". The absolute second I got up from chatting with the coin lady these three were on me. Did they want selfies? Of course. What they really wanted was to ask me questions in English and record the video as part of a school project. They were friendly and excited when I agreed. They asked me the standard questions. "Where are you from? How do you like Bangkok?  What do you think of Thailand?  When we were done, I re-gifted them the container of sweets. They were balls of raw sugar and my head almost exploded when I tried them. The coin lady laughed.

Back to the Royal Temple. I had visited it before on my previous visit to Bangkok. It was impressive but not so impressive it required a return visit. I did like wandering around the area, which was also near various other temples and government buildings. All spectacular in design and color. I came across a couple of security guards on horseback posing patiently with selfie taking tourists. Ha! They must have done something pretty awful to be punished with this extra duty. I took my photo.😎

Slices of cooked croc anyone?
Khao San night street scene
Khao San night street scene
Khao San night street scene
Soi Rambrutri night street sceneSoi Rambrutri night street scene

My day ended with a night wander around Soi Rambrutri. It had rained and the streets glistened in the streetlights. The neighborhood was busy with food vendors and I dove right in - Pad Thai for about $3 and $2 for slices of alligator or crocodile? Not sure and I did not care. I could sit on small plastic chair at a small plastic table, and eat and drink in comfort and happiness. There were enough people around to chitchat with while sipping on a beer and watching the night crowds enjoy themselves.

After three large bottles of 
Chang, getting up from my plastic doll house furniture proved tougher than when I sat down. The fact that I talk a big drinking game is one thing. Yes, I had my day and it is no secret that beer/alcohol and I have a long storied relationship. Sometimes good, sometimes not so much. However, now I am a lightweight and three large bottles of weak ass beer gets me a "wobblin and a bobblin". 

I like being a lightweight very, very much.

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